The European court has controversially authorised the ban of the headscarf, taking its first official stance ever on the issue.
The ruling comes after a receptionist was fired from her three year job at the company G4S in Belgium when she started wearing a headscarf to work. The woman claimed she suffered religious discrimination and took her case to the Belgian court who referred it to the European Court of Justice.
The European court ended up ruling in the company’s favour, claiming that the firm’s decision was justified because it amended workplace rules to forbid staff “from wearing any visible signs of their political, philosophical or religious beliefs”. The court further claimed that the company did not engage in discrimination because the company policy covered “any manifestation of such beliefs without distinction”.
The ban was still heavily criticised by many religious figures, sparking quite a lot of controversy due to the recently hotly debated issue of the integration of immigrant communities in Europe. The most extreme criticisms of the ban interpreted it as Europe openly rejecting the Muslim community.
It is very important to keep in mind that the ruling should not be mistaken as a general ban of the headscarf in Europe. Far from that, the court’s decision simply states that companies have the right to implement a ban of all symbols without exceptions.
Of course, the problem is that Islam is one of the few religions in which women wear such an overt symbol at all times (whether you support that or not is another point), so the risk is that companies start using this ban solely to reject Muslim employees, which would of course contribute to the Muslim population’s isolation.
The ban must also be put into context. In France and Austria for example, it can be understood, as the countries have already forbidden wearing any religious symbols in public places, including the burqa for example.
However, the ban would be out of place here in the UK, home to arguably the most cosmopolitan city in the world, given our strongly ingrained values or tolerance and acceptance, and our belief that everyone should be free to express their political, religious and philosophical opinions freely. It is therefore a little worrying that the ban is implemented on such a general level, given the diversity of countries in the EU, even though we probably won’t feel its affect for too long because of Brexit…
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